Kenyan horticulture exporters fight to secure markets during Covid-19

The horticulture industry in Kenya is optimistic of quick recovery as global space slowly opens after the Covid-19 disruption.

Export earnings hit KSh72 billion between January and May 2020, up from KSh65 billion for the same period last year, translating to an 11% increase. The good earnings are largely attributed to the country’s ability to ship out produce during the pandemic, serving a rising demand for food. 

“Our export sector did Kenya proud,” says Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina when speaking at the Kenya Export Strategy 2020 Webinar organized by the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency, Wednesday.  “We expected the worst but our  earnings  are up, an indication of Kenya’s potential to protect its markets by ensuring products reached the markets in a challenging environment.

The Avocado Society of Kenya CEO Ernest Muthomi says his fairly new organization had a baptism of fire. Calls from his members came in fast and furious. How would they access the Capital City?

Mr. Muthomi contacted the Ministry of Interior which advised him to inform his members to obtain identification documents. He quickly sent an email informing them to submit their vehicle registration numbers, names of staff, produce and every other detail required by the police to allow movement. He contacted a designer and quickly made stickers. 

Muthomi says that night he didn’t sleep a wink. Avocados needed to move. ‘’We were printing stickers overnight as I drove from one roadblock to another - Thika, Limuru, Matuu-  in the dark to negotiate for clearance of vehicles impounded by security. We delivered more stickers through courier. ASOK was largely unknown but within 24 hours it shot into the limelight for securing avocado clearance.  

Mr Ojepat adds the Kenya Airports Authority was roped in to update the organizations on availability of the scarce cargo space. Kenya Airways came in handy, offering its passenger planes to fly to Europe to deliver cargo despite not making profits.

“Kenya Airways did it for the country, after understanding that after the pandemic we will need our markets. Market presence was more important than making money,” he added.  For this sacrifice, OJ has made a call to exporters and government to support the national carrier to thrive. “Kenya airways came through for us, we should support the airline to get back into profitability”, he said.


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